Catalunya : Rizla Suzuki – Day Two
John Hopkins will start tomorrow's Catalan Grand Prix from the second row of the grid, as he powered his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R to fifth place during this afternoon's qualifying session at Montmelo.
Hopkins (1'42.233, 26 laps) produced
a great final lap on his Bridgestone qualifying tyres to push him higher up the leaderboard, after a series of issues had caused him to miss a small part of the session, and then to lose out on a qualifying lap. Suzuki's Anglo-American star suffered a mechanical problem with his first bike, and was then forced to abort his first qualifying lap when he was blocked by a slower rider on the racing line.
Hopkins was unable to ride his number one bike back to the team's garage, but as soon as he got back he was straight out on his second machine making sure that he didn't lose too much valuable practice time. He was just over 0.2 seconds off a front row position and only 0.393 seconds behind pole-setter Valentino Rossi in the final classification.
Chris Vermeulen (1'42.967, 26 laps) looked fast and consistent on race tyres throughout the practice today and the set-up of the bike for the 4.7km circuit was working well. He never quite managed to re-produce his race pace on qualifying tyres and will start from the middle of the fourth row tomorrow after posting the 11th quickest time.
Today's air temperatures rose to 33°C and the track surface was 52°C. With more of the same forecast for tomorrow's 25-lap race, it will be as much a battle of stamina and fitness for the riders, as it will be a test of the machines' durability, when the race gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
“We certainly ran into a few issues during the qualifying session! We had a little mechanical problem with my first bike and I wasn't able to get it back to the garage, so I had to come back and get on my spare bike. It just goes to show how good the Suzuki is working this year, because the spare bike is almost identical to what we have as the A-bike. We then went back out and I got into a quick rhythm straight away. On my first run on the qualifiers I had a bit of a problem with another rider going too slowly on the racing line, so I came in before finishing that lap. On the last qualifying tyre I managed to get where I wanted to be – on one of the front two rows. It's going to be a long, hot race tomorrow, but the bike and the Bridgestone tyres are working well and we're 100% ready to go racing!”
“It's not ideal starting from the fourth row tomorrow, and that is not where I want to be! I was comfortable early on with the race tyres and we did a good run - the durability and consistency was definitely there. When we put the qualifier in we didn't quite get the grip from the front of the bike that we were after. We will be trying something with the front in tomorrow's warm-up to help out a bit in that area. I know I can run with the leading group and I will try to get up there from the start and who knows what will happen then!”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“It's been another good day's work, but a frustrating qualifying session for us this afternoon. John's problem with his number one bike in the middle of the session meant that he had to jump onto the spare bike – which he had not tested all weekend. He did a fantastic job considering he only got in one qualifying run after being badly baulked by an experienced rider - who really should know better! His second row start is a good achievement, and if we can qualify well in a session like that then the potential for the future is extremely exciting.”
“Chris had a great session on race tyres and looked as quick as anyone else out there today, but it just didn't work out for him on the qualifiers. It seems like there was a combination of factors that made life difficult to push his lap-times further. But as we have already seen this year his race-craft is fantastic and we are expecting a much better finish from Chris than the qualifying position today.”